Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Escape to the Chateau DIY has sparkled couples into celebrating their wedding, birthday and anniversaries at Chateaux all over France. And why not, I mean it is the ultimate romantic fairytale destination, with magical turrets, stunning landscaping, in a country where food is king and the weather is the cherry on the top.
Since taking part in the series our enquiries have increased, with a desire for intimate informal DIY weddings and celebrations. So we are listening and taking action.........
Grab a coffee and find a comfy spot
whilst I guide you through some ideas for a DIY celebration at a Chateau.
Consider a self-catering Chateau and feast on the delights of the surrounding area for the week, whilst you create your celebration. I can hear you say, a week is nothing when organising a celebration! And you are right, time is key, you need to be efficient and focused in order to get everything set for the day. But with the help of your friends and family and a plan in hand, you'll find the process relaxed and fun.
Tip 1 - Should I visit the Chateau prior to the big day?
It is important you enjoy the whole process, don't rush it, cherish every decision and take the time to make the most of it. Make at least one visit to the area before your celebration week, ideally 2. Hey..........who doesn't like an excuse for a weekend getaway? Stay in a local Airbnb or hotel within the town to allow you time to familiarise yourself with the area and what it has to offer you and your guests. Early or late season is a great time to visit, the shops are open and the countryside is changing, giving you a real sense for the area.
Tip 2 - How do we express our personalities
Pay attention to the items you can purchase in advance which reflect you. Always think in threes........I love chocolate, there is no secret there, and my husband loves bread and wine. We'd definitely look to incorporate them into favors and the decor. I'd have a chocolate table, Willy Wonker style! My cousin loves vintage and I remember her embracing wellington boots, umbrellas and homemade jam conserve. The homemade jam were favors and done well in advance of the celebration. The wellington boots and umbrellas set the vintage theme, and had an essential purpose too.
Tip 3 - How do we go about selecting the wine?
Take a cycle tour for a day, either on your mini weekend away or during the week of your celebration. Visit vineyards, personally selecting your celebration wine and enjoying the process along the way.
Tip 4 - How can we reduce the catering fees?
Consider purchasing the desserts yourself and reducing the cost of the catering and, on a plus side it can be done in advance. Now, this is fun and I consider to be the best bit, select and sample the decadent pieces of art at a local Artisan Chocolatier. Buy three different types and multiplying up, this will look great on a platter. Always buy in uneven quantities, they are easier to arrange on a plate and are very pleasing on the eye.
Everyone loves bread and the artisan bread shops will make your eyes bulge and your mouth water. Before you know it, you will be walking away with a basket full of bread, more then you will be able to eat. Warning...........bread in France is always bought a couple of hours before it is eaten, do not buy it the day before, it will be hard as nails. Assign a friend to pick up the bread that day. For display, look in a brocante to select a couple of baskets or be creative and use a table drawer.
Tip 5 - I don't speak French, how do I communicate the flower brief?
In advance of your initial visit, make a collage/mood board illustrating the flower arrangements you'd like, quantities, colour and size. Try to think about what is in season in France at the time of the year you are looking for. France generally only uses produce in season. Visit the different florist shops in town and show them your pictures. I'm one for greenery rather than flowers, perhaps that is the influence of my husband or maybe its because it is free and in abundance at any Chateau. Herbs are my favourite as they give off the most amazing smell and every time you cook with them you'll remember your fabulous day. Simply lay them on the table, or tie a couple of sprigs together and placing them on a napkin as place markers.
Tip 6 - Which restaurants should we book for our guests for the day after?
During your celebration week it is important to be looked after, so do your homework and look on TripAdvisor to establish the top restaurants. During your mini break you can put them to the test, but remember to book in advance, the best get booked up fast and you can't try them if they are full.
Tip 7 - Do I need to meet the catering company?
Arrange a meeting with a couple of catering companies during your mini-break, to make sure your personalities are aligned and you are confident with their offerings. Discuss exactly what they will be providing, down to napkins, candle holders, wine glasses, table cloths and what equipment is required at the Chateau. Who is responsible for clearing up?
Tip 8 - Where is the best place for the ceremony, and the dinner?
Prior to your celebration week, familiarise yourself with the Chateau and the grounds, image the day, where is the sun rising and setting? What are the focal points of your day and try to imagine where in the Chateau or estate these will be held? Make sure you have considered the what-ifs. The weather is one of those things which can be unpredictable. Is there inside space to accommodate your guests should the weather be too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet.
Tip 9 - How to be environment-conscious?
Try to buy items you will use again at home or you can give as gifts at the end of the celebration. Single-use items are definitely a no, no for the environment-conscious world we live in today. Table lights are fantastic for the obvious table display but are equally fabulous for lighting a bush. Take a walk around the woodland and cut some large twigs and place them by a door with lights in them. Simple, but really effective and can be done with a glass of wine in your hand.
Tip 10 - Should we bother looking at the cancellation policy?
The small, but important matter no one likes to talk about, the cancellation policy. It is important, the future can be unpredictable. Make sure you know what you are signing up to.